Archive for April, 2004

Pumped Up in Tulare

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

I had the opportunity to get a first hand look at the Central Cal ASA league this past weekend, and was very impressed with level of play and the teams that I saw. I was a “guest” pitcher for the Tom Biko’s KHT Pumpers team at the league’s second weekend, in Tulare, California. While I regularly pitch in the So Cal ASA Alliance (which has plenty of tough competition of its own), this was my first look in some time at the teams “up north”. My thanks to Tom Biko and the rest of the KHT Pumpers for having me up.

The games were played at a first rate facility, Prosperity Park, in Tulare, California, which is about 3 hours north of Los Angeles. The park boast four fields, complete with covered dugouts, and fenced in bullpens (to protect the fans from pitchers like me) Throw in commercial quality concession stand, and you’ve got a great place to watch or play ball. Being able to listen to the Dodger-Giants game on the drive up was a nice bonus. (Especially with my Dodgers sweeping the weekend). You lose Vinny about half-way there, but just about the same place you can get Jon Miller and the Giants broadcast. Actually, my three hour drive paled by comparison to others I spoke with, some driving 5 hours from Vegas to play, while a couple players drove 12 hours from Oregon!

Ran into a few familiar faces while in Tulare, including Lou Enriquez and Mike “Spanky” Thomas. Lou and Spanky now run the So Cal league, but compete in the Central Cal league for the Fresno River Rats. If you’re wondering how the Central and So Cal leagues match-up, Lou and Spanky are probably the best qualified to weigh in on that subject. Saw two of California’s best players, Todd Budke and Jason Porto, who were on loan from their respective clubs, the Farm and Team Rainey, respectively. Also ran into a former teammate from 2 decades ago, Simon Brewer, now pitching for the Silverhawks, whose roster includes players formerly on the Bucks. Simon was the guy that made me feel at home as a pick up player for the 1984 Lowder Electric team that finished 2nd in the ASA “A” Nationals that year in Fargo, ND. Good to see him still pitching and enjoying the game. One of the nicest people I’ve run across in fastpitch.
Because I participate in the So Cal league, we obviously have more coverage of the games “down south”. For those of you not familiar with the Central Cal league, I highly recommended Iren Hodge’s well known website “the” which provides great coverage for the league, including detailed statistics.

There you can read about some of the top players in the league, including last year’s MVP, Scott Thompson of the Valley Lyons team. In the first weekend of the season in March, Scott picked up where he left off last year, notching an unbelievable batting average of .900. Fred Kroneberger of the Pumpers wasn’t far behind, hitting .800. Paul Macias of Valley Lyons and Eddie Martinez of the Silverhawks had 11 hit weekends. And lest you think that it’s just a hitter’s league, Randy Lowry notched a first weekend ERA of 0.00, while Tom Biko of the Pumpers was a microscopic 0.53, with 19 strikeouts.

This year, with Team Lyons and the Bucks no longer fielding teams, the Central league does not have an “A/B” league. The end result is a lot of players filtering into the ranks of the “C” teams. Anyone that views the Central Cal league (or the So Cal Alliance) as a typical “C” league is in for a rude awakening. A look at the rosters for both reveal plenty of players with B, A and ISC experience. It makes for some great competition and exciting games, whether you are a player or a fan.

The Central Cal league’s website says it best, inviting any team — from anywhere – to come and compete. They even offer your money back to any team that can go 5-0 on a weekend, with the following proviso: “If you don’t bring your “A” game, or “Major” for that matter, to this league, you might as well not come at all! Contrary to public belief, we have some pretty good ball teams, at all levels, in California! These teams have consistently proven that they are for real. If you don’t believe it, just try us out. If you want to be a pretender, then stay away, and keep telling yourself you are good. Until you play the best, how will you know for sure?” We’ve invited their players to tell us who they think are the toughest hitters and best pitchers in their league at the Fastpitchwest Forum. All of this was reason enough to be “Pumped up in Tulare”. The Central Cal ASA league will return to league play again May 15-16, 2004 in Fresno, CA at a brand new facility, which will also host an ASA Qualifier over Memorial Weekend.